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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Football Firsts - Michigan, 1887

This occasion has started an enthusiastic football boom, and it is hoped that coming years will witness a series of these contests.

My off-season series of “Notre Dame Football Firsts” continues this week with the first meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan, 1887.

So far I’ve covered USC, Stanford, Navy, Purdue, the first Spring Game at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Pitt, Army, and Northwestern. This week I’m going to take a look back at Notre Dame’s first matchup against Michigan in 1887.

Notre Dame and Michigan have played each other 43 times with Notre Dame winning 17, Michigan winning 25, and one tie. The largest margin of victory for Notre Dame was 31-0 in 2014, and the largest margin of victory for Michigan was 38-0 in 2003. Notre Dame’s longest win streak is 4 (1987-1990), and Michigan’s longest win streak is 8 (1887-1908). The two teams played for the first time on November 23rd, 1887, in South Bend, Ind., and Michigan won by a score of 8-0.

It also happens to be the first game football in Notre Dame history. And, what’s even more interesting is how this game came to be in the first place. In 1884, Notre Dame sent a letter to Michigan asking them to teach the Notre Dame students how to play football.

In 1887, their request was granted. In the Scholastic, the Notre Dame student magazine, they wrote:

For some days previous to Wednesday great interest had been manifested by our students in the football game which had been arranged between the teams of the Universities of Michigan and Notre Dame. It was not considered a match contest, as the home team had been organized only a few weeks, and the Michigan boys, the champions of the West, came more to instruct them in the points of the Rugby game than to win fresh laurels. The visitors arrived over the Michigan Central RR., Wednesday morning, and were at once taken in charge by a committee of students.

After spending a few hours in “taking in” the surroundings, they donned their uniforms of spotless white and appeared upon the Seniors’ campus. Owing to the recent thaw, the field was damp and muddy; but nothing daunted, the boys “went in,” and soon Harless’ new suit appeared as though it had imbibed some of its wearer’s affinity for the soil of Notre Dame. At first, to render our players more familiar with the game, the teams were chosen irrespective of college. After some minutes’ play, the game was called, and each took his position as follows:

Univ. of M.—Full Back: J.L. Duffy; Half Backs: J. E. Duffv, E. McPheran; Quarter Back: R. T. Farrand; Centre Rush: W. W. Harless; Rush Line: F. Townsend, E. M. Sprague F. H. Knapp, W. Fowler, G. W. De Haven, M. Wade.

Univ. of N.D.—Full Back: If. Jewett; Half Backs: J. Cusack, H. Luhn; Quarter Back: G Cartier; Centre Rush: G. A. Houck; Rush Line: F. Fehr, P. Nelson, B. Sawkins, W. Springer, T. O’Regan, P. P. Maloney.

On account of time, only a part of one inning was played, and resulted in a score of 8 to 0 in favor of the visitors. The game was interesting, and, notwithstanding the slippery condition of the ground, the Ann Arbor boys gave a fine exhibition of skillful playing. This occasion has started an enthusiastic football boom, and it is hoped that coming years will witness a series of these contests. After a hearty dinner, Rev. President Walsh thanked the Ann Arbor team for their visit, and assured them of the cordial reception that would always await them at Notre Dame. At 1 o’clock carriages were taken for Niles, and amidst rousing cheers the University of Michigan football team departed, leaving behind them a most favorable impression.

Next week I’ll look at the first meeting between Notre Dame and Boston College, 1975.

Cheers & GO IRISH!